Have you been to Abruzzo in Italy? Do you know of Abruzzo? It is surprising that given the vibrance of the region, particularly in terms of food, and that it is only a 2 hour drive from Rome, that only a few are blazing the tourist trail from outside Italy, when you compare it to other regions. Abruzzo is where Italians go on holiday and it is a gem. I visited on a whistle stop tour to shoot some video with Visit Abruzzo in the early Spring. All I could think on my return was, I wish that I had brought a bigger suitcase to bring stuff home (Abruzzo has wonderful wine, pasta, truffles and saffron, just to start), and it must not be long until I return again. Abruzzo has seaside villages, snow capped mountain top towns (with only half an hour between them), and small towns threaded by winding country roads in between. There are cities too, but they won’t overwhelm you. Pescara, where I flew into, is small, buzzing and friendly. I …
I have an unusual and very tasty recipe for you today, ripe from the shores of Grenada. Grenada is known for high quality cocoa and spice, and they meet here in this lively Coconut & Chocolate Chicken Curry. Do you consider chocolate a sweet or savoury ingredient? For me dark chocolate is intensely savoury, and a brilliant secret addition to many dishes, enhancing with a deep low rumble. It is perfect with chilli and spices, which of course Mexicans have known for a long time. Mole, a savoury Mexican dish rich with chocolate, is a superb example of this. Recently in Grenada, I had the pleasure of doing a cooking session with Esther and Omega at True Blue Bay. I cooked with them last time too. They are fun, and know exactly what to do with the vibrant ingredients available in Grenada. So many spices, and the chocolate which Grenada is rich with. This time we made a Coconut & Chocolate Curried Chicken. A small amount of chocolate enriches the spicy sauce, with the creamy …
Greetings from Grenada, a most gorgeous island tucked in the Southern Caribbean. The spice island, where the trees are rich with nutmeg, bright with cloves, heavy with cocoa pods and lined with cinnamon bark. It all sounds perfect, right?
Who doesn’t want to go to Paris in the Spring? A world away from London, and only 2 hours by Eurostar. I went recently to eat, drink, wander, and as always, to stock up my pantry with all sorts of good things.
A trip to Kyoto would be remiss without several things. While I accept that it is impossible to do everything, I have many more trips to make before I have, I will give you a starter list. You need to do a full exploration of the tea culture, including attending a tea ceremony as Kyoto is renowned for the quality of their tea and their beautiful antique pottery. You must have a kaiseki dinner and a proper Kyoto breakfast (my favourite was at Touzan at The Hyatt Regency). Finally, you cannot visit Kyoto without a visit to at least one sake brewery.
Everyone needs a bolt hole, even people who live in a city like Sydney. About three and a half hours inland from Sydney, and over the Blue Mountains, lies a gorgeous small town and wine region called Mudgee. Wine is not new here, winemakers have been active in Mudgee for over 150 years, but it is growing quickly and it is now the third largest winemaking region in New South Wales. At that, it is emerging in terms of tourism, and it is still under the radar for international visitors like you and me.
Brunei, a tiny country on the island of Borneo, surrounded by Malaysia, Sabah on one side and Sarawak on the other, is one of the worlds wealthiest countries, thanks to their plentiful supply of oil. It is also one of the smallest, with a population of 415,717, approximately 10% of the population of the small country that I hail from, Ireland. With one major city, Bandar Seri Begawan, and the rainforest beyond, Brunei makes a good stopover en route to Melbourne or other destinations, like Sabah, on the Royal Brunei flight network. But what do you do when you get there?
Yesterday, when I wrote about the Ballymaloe Lit Fest, I mentioned that I was lucky. It goes even further than that. In my small home town, curved along a small slice of the Atlantic and in the shelter of the Comeragh mountains, we have all kinds of wonderful too, and ample reasons to return.
[Photo: Maggie Beer, Yotam Ottolenghi, Darina Allen and Sami Tamimi – they were having so much fun I couldn’t get a photo of them that wasn’t slightly blurred!] I have many food related excuses to go home to Ireland, and I am clucky, for some people travel from Australia, the US, and many other places to go to one of my favourites, the Kerrygold Ballymaloe Lit Fest, a smart and fun gathering of some of the worlds best food writers and chefs, who convene in a corner of East Cork to share their knowledge and to discuss pertinent matters in the world of food. The weekend is full of chat, talks and debate, there are cooking demos, and ultimately everyone ends up in the fringe festival in The Big Shed for some wine and a bit of a boogie later on.
It is St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, and I am declaring this Irish week on the blog. A national holiday in Ireland and a day of celebration of Irish culture worldwide, if you would like to hit a city where you can have a superb day and where they don’t dye the rivers or beer green, well, go to Dublin. I never did understand why people would want to drink something green (and that kind of applies to green juice too, although I have succumbed on occasion).
Can I tell you something ridiculous? I am nursing a selfie stick injury. A selfie stick injury?! Am I embarassed? Not even a tiny bit. I was always a bit snooty about selfie sticks. The first time I saw one was in the Pantheon in Rome (oooh er, but really). Two guys were perched beneath it, grinning up. I scoffed internally. What in gods name is that? I thought it a little shameless and wondered how the world had come it. I mean I just never would. Never ever.
L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence is a gorgeous little town, patches of land interspersed between strands of river and streams, with waterwheels, tendrils of moss hanging down, dragging themselves round. Known for a Sunday market full of antiques, food stalls and lots of randomness, I spent a lovely Sunday meandering it last weekend. I heard after that this is where Keith Floyd had an antique shop before he became a chef. I wanted every antique knife, spoon, fork and copper pan but reserved the space for chickpeas and chickpea flower purchased from a grower and a huge fat plait of stinky purple garlic. I watched rotisserie chicken spinning around, glistening with fat and saying EAT-ME, FOR-THE-LOVE-OF-GOD-EAT-ME-NOW. I wanted to, I really did and I desperately wanted to just run and grab some of the potatoes drinking all of that gorgeous chicken fat underneath, but I behaved. As much as I wanted to grab a chicken and just eat it with some bread, I also wanted to sit down and have a nice lunch. At the last minute …
Truffle hunting (oink oink, SNORT!), gooey chocolate truffles, and doing the truffle shuffle (I inadvertently have earned the right through this food writing of mine), regardless of what truffles make you think of, the fungal variety, growing underground and snuffed out by dogs and less so now, pigs, are a wonder. Rich, funky, and smelling of things that most people won’t admit to (also male pig pheremones, which is why female pigs are so good at earthing them out), they are the ultimate flavour bomb, making simple things taste amazing with the tiniest bit of work. A small chop, slice or grate will do you just fine, and they will elevate eggs, fried, scrambled or in an omelette, to one of the best dishes in the world. Buttered bread becomes something you might fight your mother for, anything simple with fat and richness (lard works great), with truffles enters a My Fair Lady sort of situation, adopting a smart accent, elegant umbrella and dress. I love a truffle.
The thoughts that go through your head when you are terrified of heights but doing something that might kill or cure you are overwhelming. When in Sabah, despite signs saying something like “just please don’t do this if you are afraid of heights, ok? OK?!”, I kept schtum and did a very high and very wobbly rainforest rope walk anyway. I have had a year of trying to conquer my fears (doing the worlds longest island to island zipline in Sabah was another one), and forced myself.
Visiting Sabah, I was excited as always about the food and the peculiarities that would be offered by the region and the local cooking. Sabah is tucked away in Borneo, caressing the sea, but it has a lot of rainforest and cultivated land too. On the coast there are what are referred to locally as sea gypsies, living in wooden houses on stilts in the sea by the coast. Originating from Indonesia and the Philippines, they do have their own local food culture, and I found a chef who teaches it, Fortunato Lowel, at the Mango Garden Restaurant.
I recently worked with Lloyds Bank on a project where I explored some of my favourite dining experiences in my (almost) 8 years of blogging. A lovely indulgence for me, I hope you like it too.
One of the joys of going to Sabah is exploring the food markets. Malaysian food culture is rich and diverse, and Sabah, tucked away on the island of Borneo, has a food heritage all of its own combined with Malaysian standards. Lots of native fish and meats are used, crocodile and stingray are probably some of the most unusual, but there is lots of beef and chicken, and more familiar fish like snapper and prawns.
It would take years to explore fully all of the tapas in Madrid. Madrid is full of small restaurants that specialise in one dish and do it brilliantly, and Madrid is a big place. I only had a few days and it was my first trip to the city (it won’t be my last – I loved it), but I had the help of some locals, recommendations from fellow food bloggers and writers, and I also had the assistance of a local guide who had a brilliant list of her favourites. On a bright autumnal Sunday lunch time, we met at Plaza Mayor and headed to Casa Revuelta (Calle de Latoneros 3), a small busy tapas bar famous for light bright and crisp fried cod, served with either beer or wine. A bargain at €2.80 (or €3.80 with wine, €4 with beer) and a perfect first stop. Now owned by Begona, her father in law opened Casa Revuelta 48 years ago. At 92 years old now, he is naturally less involved, but it is still …
(and an incredible package offer for the Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort for you – see the end of this post for details) Indulge me. I know I obsess about food, and that is why you mainly come here, but today, I want to talk about orangutans. On my recent trip to Sabah, I was swept away not just by the food, but also monkeys, apes, monitor lizards, crocodiles and inquisitive owls. Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, is a well known honeymoon destination. It has the pristine beaches, luxury hotels and resorts, glorious sunsets, blue skies and crystal seas dotted with islands, that top most honeymoon wish lists. Sabah has wonderful Malaysian food, lots of fresh fish, aroma, heat and spice, but also curiosities like crocodile (I tried a kind of crocodile bacon at one point!). There are great street food markets (sambal stingray, you tasty thing you), lots of local restaurants, the people of Malaysia are passionate about their food and they eat very well. I was expecting to love exploring the food and to be enthralled …
Truffles! Don’t you love them. rich, intense, savoury and deeply addictive, I always feel for those poor truffle dogs who seek them because they love them so much, only to have to give them to the truffle hunter when they find them.